Don't miss




Ban Ki-Moon says Syria ceasefire possible in 6 months

Read more


Pope arrives in Uganda, calls Africa 'Continent of hope'

Read more


France's "Hommage National"

Read more


Hollande’s Grand Coalition: Conflicting interests undermine fight against Jihadists (part 2)

Read more


France in Mourning: What response to Paris Attacks? (part 1)

Read more


Going above and beyond to measure pollution

Read more

#TECH 24

COP21: How technology fights climate change

Read more


Burkina Faso gears up for crunch presidential elections

Read more

#THE 51%

Standing up against violence

Read more

Our Focus programme brings you exclusive reports from around the world. From Monday to Friday at 7.45 am Paris time.



Latest update : 2014-06-17

Report: Thailand’s military junta wages happiness offensive


Thailand’s generals, who seized power in a military coup in May to end increasingly violent political turmoil, are hell-bent on imposing happiness on the population. FRANCE 24 reports from Bangkok.

After relaxing some of the curfews that threatened Bangkok’s vital tourist trade, and giving the country free access to the football World Cup on terrestrial TV, the country’s soldiers are taking to the streets with a message of joie de vivre.

Several times a week since the coup, the junta has organised large street parties in the capital, complete with free food and medical care, in a bid to win over the population.

"We are very happy,” one reveler told FRANCE 24. “Most Thai people are very satisfied that the army is trying to solve the problem before we have an election. Maybe they'll need a year or a year and a half, but that doesn't matter."

Junta leader’s sentimental ballad

On the streets of Bangkok, there seems to be some genuine optimism and hope for a literal “Return to Happiness in Thailand”, the title of a sentimental ballad written by junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Achieving this happiness is going to be a challenge in the long term, as arrests, censorship and curfews remain a daily reality for most Thais.

Colonel Werachon Sukondhapatipak, spokesman for the junta which titles itself the “National Council for Peace and Order”, told FRANCE 24 that genuine happiness was vital to the generals’ bid to institute meaningful and lasting social reform.

“We want to gain trust and confidence,” he said, explaining that street parties were a way for the army to connect with the people, even the “Red Shirts” movement, which supports ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

“People would not listen to one another in the past. Everything they do is in order to win against each other. But this time we just want to create the atmosphere in which people listen to one another.”

‘Methods worthy of the Gestapo’

FRANCE 24 visited a neighbourhood shopping mall that was a popular zone for the Red Shirts, where happiness and optimism were in short supply.

A bookseller, one of the few traders still present at the mall, told FRANCE 24: “The Thai military can say what they want. These are the methods of dictators. It's not by organizing parties and concerts throughout the country that we are going to solve our problems. People might not be saying anything, but deep in their hearts, they hate the coup."

It’s a sentiment shared by Chuwat Rerksirisuk, Editor-in-Chief of news site Prachatai and a well-known advocate of free speech.

"This is a time bomb,” he said. “The more the junta tries to suppress people's rights, the more anger they will create. This is a strategy of psychological warfare; organizing parties with guns to their heads, and censoring, stopping and controlling everything with methods worthy of the Gestapo."

By Cyril PAYEN



2015-11-27 Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso gears up for crunch presidential elections

Sunday's presidential elections in Burkina Faso are the first since a popular uprising that led to the ousting of President Blaise Compaoré, a man who had tried to alter the...

Read more

2015-11-26 Bosnia and Herzegovina

Twenty years after Bosnian war, divisions remain

Twenty years ago, after weeks of intense talks, exhausted diplomats reached an agreement to put an end to the Bosnian War, which had lasted more than three years and claimed...

Read more

2015-11-25 Spain

How did Spain recover from the 2004 terror attacks?

One of the darkest days in recent Spanish history was March 11, 2004, when Islamists detonated bombs on three Madrid commuter trains, killing 191 people and wounding over a...

Read more

2015-11-24 tourism

Taiwan fortress-island faces tourist invasion

Can Taiwan and China ever truly be friends? The question has returned to the fore after the two countries' presidents held historic talks earlier this month. Some on the smaller...

Read more

2015-11-23 immigration

USA: One woman's battle to help 'immigration orphans'

One year before the US presidential election, the issue of illegal immigration is a key campaign issue for both Republican and Democratic candidates.

Read more